March 14, 2020
By: Adam Reeson
As the citizen’s of Saskatchewan come to grips with the COVID19 (Coronavirus), it can be difficult to decide how to handle the situation.
Should we continue our day-to-day lives as we always do? Do we take mild precautions, such as rigorous hand washing? Or, should we hibernate indoors and isolate ourselves from society?
Certainly, there is no obvious answer to those questions. How we handle the Coronavirus is a fluid situation, which can evolve rapidly based on what we hear in the news. Although we can’t predict the future of COVID19 in Saskatchewan, we can learn about similar situations from the past to help us prepare for what might be ahead.
The Spanish Influenza
As North America’s victorious Veterans returned home after the first World War, they brought with them an unwanted souvenir. The Spanish Influenza rapidly spread across the prairies, with the brunt of the damage taking place in the fall of 1918.
In October of that year, an estimated 2,000 people in Regina, Saskatchewan were suffering from the Spanish Flu. To slow the rapid spread of the pandemic, drastic measures were taken. Schools, churches, theaters and even some business were closed in the Queen City. To accommodate the hundreds of casualties, additional staff were hired to help dig graves at the Regina Cemetery. By the end of the pandemic in 1920, 330 people in Regina were dead.
Truly, this was one of the darkest chapters in the history of Regina. But, until recently, the local impact of the Spanish Flu wasn’t widely known or talked about. I started learning more about it in 2017 when Kenton de Jong, a local blogger, started researching why there was a large section of graves at the Regina Cemetery which were mostly unmarked. He took it upon himself to thoroughly research who is buried there and why there is little to no memorialization. After concluding that the majority of the unmarked graves were likely Spanish Flu victims, de Jong created reginaspanishflu.ca which features an in-depth timeline of the events that brought our community to its knees a century ago.
Now, I’m no health expert and am by no means trying to make a direct comparison between the Spanish Influenza (which killed 20-50 million people worldwide) and the Coronavirus. Furthermore, I’m not writing this to tell anyone else what they should or should not do in this emerging situation. However, there is a final chapter to the Spanish Flu story in Regina which can help articulate how serious this situation might be.
After concluding his research, Kenton de Jong was inspired to do what he could to create a permanent monument in honour of the largely forgotten flu fatalities. With his leadership, in partnership with several local businesses and community organizations, de Jong achieved his goal when the Regina Spanish Flu Memorial was officially unveiled in December of 2017.
Frontier Monuments was involved in the project, helping design and manufacture the Barre Grey Granite memorial. It was one of the highlights of my career and a very proud moment for our business to help create a public memorial for today and generations to come in our community.
Having said all of that, the recent outbreak of COVID19 has been a very real reminder that 100 years later, we are not immune to another significant healthcare crisis. So let’s not panic, but proceed with caution. As a community, we can do our part to get through this and ensure that a Regina Coronavirus monument never needs to be made.
For Frontier Monuments, I’m Adam Reeson.
*Information and pictures provided by Kenton de Jong and reginaspanishflu.ca